Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Theresa May’s letter to the nation

I’ve never received a letter from the Prime Minister before. So, I could hardly contain my anticipation when it arrived in my Twitter feed this morning. I should have known better. I honestly read it aghast. OK, I have not read the 500 pages of the withdrawal agreement. I have left that to others, such as Tory MP, Grant Shapps. But I have read a lot about it from those who  have and, who, I trust.

As I went through the letter, I was waiting for the first truth to emerge, but I was disappointed. There were no truths. Even the Brexiters, like Dominic Raab, are coming clean and saying that this withdrawal agreement is poor in comparison to the only remaining option; i.e. remaining. But the PM borrowed again from Trump: put sugar on it to make is seem appetizing.

The best critique/demolition job that I have found is here: Steve Bullock.

Thinking about options, try Jon Worth’s Euroblog

 

 

 

 

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Vienna’s washrooms

So there we are looking for breakfast. We end up at Schwedenplatz. We cross the Donau Kanal using the Schwedenbrücke and stumble into Spelunke on Taborstraße. It is one of those cafés that doubles as a nightclub. Versatile. But as we have found over the years, the proof is in the toilet, and Spelunke is special. The breakfast was ok, too.

So, the first challenge is to get in. Because one does not expect to find instructions on the floor, the tantalising glass door just refuses to open. It takes a couple of helpful women to point out the floor sensor (above left).

Once in, there’s more going on. Now I did not go into the women’s toilet, but my partner came out with a couple of interesting shots from inside a cubicle where the portal window has a couple of surprises (left and right).

And just in case you cannot find the loo roll, it is illuminated.

So the next day, we are after breakfast again. We concede Stadtcafé adjacent to Freyung, a rather central location. The café is pretty regular. The porridge was good. Then in the toilet one finds another mysterious piece of equipment, albeit designed by Dyson (right). These three-in-one contraptions never seem satisfactory and always challenge. The wash basin itself is a bit of a mystery. It is more of a drainage channel.

As a design idea, this borrows directly, I think, from the old ghastly Wallgate three-in-ones that seemed very popular with English public authorities either building or refurbishing their public conveniences (left).

Wallgate picture by Retroscania (Flickr) from Dudley bus station

JPS identity crisis

John Player Special is trying to knock us over with its striking new campaign, Make your Day. There’s a lot of red. It is supposed to “fit in”, as the strapline indicates. Because it is compact! What is a compact cigarette? More tobacco? If so, the bit they do have to put on the poster “Rauchen ist tödlich” is as fitting as ever. Deadly.

I passed an examination!

Since getting back from holidays in the Alps in August, it has been quite busy. The start of an academic year is always busy; this year had its own challenges. And they are persistent. Apologies to my readers. Something had to give.

I have, however, now passed my Goethe Institut B1 German exam. It was quite an experience. I have not taken a formal examination for maybe 20 years (since completing my undergraduate degree). So, I had to prepare. The Goethe Institut offers plenty of mock examination materials for that purpose. I have spent the best part of a year trying to improve my mock scores. Examinations are as much about technique as they are content. Answering the question helps – though because the questions and/or instructions are in German, that makes it a shade more tricky to get right. I practised hard answering questions alone and with my tutor.

Kaffee und Kuchen nach der Prüfung

I have to say that I thought – confidently – that I had failed the listening part of the examination. In my training, this was my weakest discipline. One has to listen to a cod radio-discussion programme and identify who said what. There is little concession to speed. Some of the voices seem similar and, as was in my case, in the first instance, I had no idea what the theme was! But somehow, I passed that part with a creditable 77 (84 overall from four disciplines).

Anyone is doing this examination in Munich, be advised that the online “pass checker” tool may not work. After two weeks the Institut wrote to me to ask when I was going to pick up my certificate! And against their own guidelines, they sent it to an address in Munich for me to retrieve rather than have to attend in person. At 200 Euros, it is not a cheap option. But I am unexpectedly proud.

L&M Open for More campaign

L&M is bwp-1487537242553.jpgack on the streets with a new campaign and image. There are two posters at the moment, one red (left) and one blue (which I do not have the image for – I’m trying). I suppose it is just a play on words – the packet has more in it? The sharing options are more with L&M? And, naturally, open for more ways to die. Badly.

More on privatising schools by stealth

NickyH&SJan10A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the UK government’s assault on schools in forcibly converting them into Academies and then, by default, passing them, their assets and their curricula over to the private sector. Seemingly, there has been a lot of opposition to this, not least from local authorities whose schools they are. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary (left) for England told the UK Parliament on Monday that she is listening. So the new idea is to force schools to be academies, but for local authorities to manage chains of academies. Best of both worlds, it seems?

Hang on a minute. One of the objections was cost. Conversion costs money. So far, £32.5m has been spent on conversion. Another £100m is required to finish the job. So no. Second, conversion is the precursor to privatisation. Schools cannot easily be privatised without conversion because, presumably, ‘academisation’ is just converting the school into a bundle of assets and contracts. The kind of stuff that private companies understand. So, even if in the short-term, local authorities run academies, it is the conversion that is critical. We must ask ourselves why this is a suitable compromise for an ideological government. Because it is the academisation that they want. Eventually they will be sold/passed on to their friends to make risk-free money from.

Picture: Wikipedia

Marlboro’s You Decide goes raddled old man

20160331_183858 Naturally I thought the point of advertising was to sell products. So, use beautiful people doing interesting things in the sunshine. Clearly, I am no marketeer. However, I need some guidance on the logic of Marlboro’s latest use of a raddled old man lighting up a cigarette (left). As for the strapline, will the world care what your name was (assuming he does not have too much life left in him)? No idea!

Marlboro has another You Decide poster current (right). This is more like it. Handsome, fit, bearded man with20160331_184704 cigarette looks into the camera. Another seemingly meaningless strapline, ‘Will you stay real’? ‘Will you turn into the raddled old man?’ strikes me as being more appropriate.

You Decide, the new Maybe

20160312_170306A few weeks ago Marlboro started posting up their blank You Decide. posters (left) in that marketing ruse to spark interest. You Decide. what? An urban mystery that is compelling. The next installment is then eagerly anticipated.

The theme is now developing well across Germany and  presumably other territories wheredownload_20160326_101048 cigarette advertising is still permitted. Here are two examples. First, we are asked “Is up the only way?” in hand-written red letters. An image of a mature blond-haired woman accompanies the slogan.
download_20160326_100853Men, by contrast, are asked “How far is enough?” in similarly fonted writing. The man is modern urban figure courting a beard and sitting on what seems to be a wooden box.

OK, this is an unfolding narrative. There are more to come, for sure. Though, let me re-iterate, there is only one direction for smokers and this point is far enough. Quit.

Camel’s own goal

20160324_201852Camel’s more recent advertising campaign has celebrated its lethal qualities with primary colours and brand. With the “New Red and Blue” marketing it is back to the simplicity of presenting the product to camera. A man in a checked shirt holds a packet exposing the logo to the camera.

However, it seems that the marketeers have not been following this blog. The strapline “Next Camel Generation” beckons my normal scorn. Has the previous generation succumbed to cancer and heart disease?

Who wants to be Prime Minister of the divided Isle?

Euro_flag_yellow_lowHere in the UK at the moment, we are being fed a daily diet of EU in-or-out gruel. Two camps vying for our vote in the referendum on 23 June. Cannot wait. The out side are particularly interesting because for neither camp is it about values – the values of sharing the planet, trading to stop us fighting against one another and protecting human rights.

So, in the red corner are the fascists who believe that immigration is at the heart of the country’s problems and exit would first of all stop all of the Poles, Romanians, etc. coming and taking our jobs, houses, schools, etc., but also make it easier for the country to stop the middle-eastern refugees from entering because the borders can again be controlled. Having just crossed a border today at Gatwick Airport, I cannot see that the border could be better ‘protected’ from the latter category. Frankly.

In the blue corner we find the renegade Tory ministers who are interested in being big fish in a small pool (England) rather than small fish in a big pool (Europe). Apparently, we make better laws than other Europeans. We are better at negotiating trade deals than Europeans, something to do with our imperial history. We could negotiate the necessary trade deals with key markets in the time it takes to say Xi Jinping or Donald Trump. And of course, these countries need the British market because they sell more things to us than we do to them – as if that was a good thing.

Leading this intellectually cat-brained movement is Boris Johnson (right)Johnson, the selfless Mayor of London. Johnson claims, of course,
that he did a lot of soul searching before opting for Brexit. He did not really want to oppose his own prime minister. But he just had to. He is not doing it as a springboard to being prime minister when a wounded David Cameron gives up after being found to be on the wrong side. No.

Choices, choices.

Pic: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London twitter